My great-grandmother was a Native American from the Susquehanok tribe of the Iroquois Nation. However, in spite of my brown skin, in the almost totally white small-town rural Pennsylvania community, which I was raised in, I never heard of any such thing as skin color prejudice. I never witnessed any family member belittle anyone because of their skin color. I didn’t learn about the civil rights movement and the racial segregation of the South until I studied civics and American history in high school. It was then that I learned about the deep and hateful prejudices, which existed in other regions of our nation during that time period.
In addition, American history taught me a lot about the mass slaughter of the Native Americans. I came to realize that the West was not actually “won” as it is romanticized, but “overrun ” as the white settlers moved across the country. I found out that hundreds of thousands of native Americans died as they fought vainly to keep their lands, starting in the early 1600s on the Eastern shores of this continent all the way to California.
However, as I am about to show, prejudice has never been solely propagated by white men trying to dominate the turf of those of a different skin color. Prejudice is not a “skin” problem as has been often quoted but a “sin” problem. The misconception of what prejudice truly is in actuality creates the prejudice of prejudice! In this next “connect the dots” trail of human prejudice you may realize that a quote during World War II by the newspaper cartoonist Walt Kelly, “We have found the enemy and he is us” could not be more true than as it relates to the roots of prejudice in the human race.
Webster’s Dictionary’s definition of “prejudice” is: “preconceived judgment or opinion or: an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge.” In reality, the Latin origin of the word is derived from “pre” meaning (before) and “judge.” Ironically this word is the exact type of judgment, which Jesus condemned when he said in Matthew 7:1 “Judge not, that you be not judged.”(NKJV).
According to Vines’ Bible dictionary, the Greek word used in the original is “krino”, which translated means to “assume the office of a judge.”
I believe that in order to be able to properly judge someone, you have to have access to all of the facts. A judge in a court of law makes their judgments based on all the facts that they have at their disposal. James 4:12 says, “There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?”(NKJV) Therefore, Jesus was pointing to the fact in His powerful Sermon on the Mount that the reason that judging is so wrong, and we can include in this that prejudice is so wrong, is that it never has all the facts. James makes it clear, only God has all the facts and is the only one worthy to truly judge someone. So why then does prejudice run so deep throughout all of humanity?
I believe that the first act of prejudice took place in the second generation of mankind. Genesis chapter four records the story of the first two children of Adam and Eve. To paraphrase, Cain, the older brother, became jealous of all things of his younger brother Abel’s acceptable sacrifice to God and ended up murdering him. Cain obviously felt he had all the facts about Abel’s sacrifice and his own relationship with God. Tragically he did not. This was a clear case of him pre-judging his brother. To state it bluntly, Cain was prejudiced against Abel, and then Abel suffered the sinful consequence.
“Tribalism,” which fosters prejudice, is as much a practice of the “white” race as it is any other race born since the beginning of creation. Sadly hatred still exists for instance between the French and the British centuries after any major wars have been fought between the two countries. Strong prejudice also presently exists between Eastern and Western Europe, although the “iron curtain” that once divided them is long gone. Family ancestries go back for generations tying Europeans together. Unfortunately, however, politically formed philosophies and governmental alliances have formed types of ethnological differences that even sometimes forbid intra-racial marriages. Often even “Christian” denominations from the same “white people groups” are also divided by these baseless prejudices.
However “Whites” cannot be singled out as the only race which experiences intra-racial prejudice. Today the Mainland Chinese people feel they are superior to the Taiwanese Chinese. Americans know well the prejudice between the North and South Vietnamese and the fact that North and South Korea have been totally separated for decades. Latin Americans, who admit to no First Nations heritage, look down on their indigenous and Mestizo fellow citizens. Some Jamaican Blacks are offended if you call them African Americans. Last, but certainly not least, is the great divide between Abraham’s children, the Jewish “and” the Arab people groups who have been at war for centuries.
We must therefore admit that prejudice is truly not a skin problem between races but a sin problem between individual hearts –- just as it was between Cain and Abel, who were the first naturally born people on the planet. I am firmly convinced that when we as the Church around the world finally admit to and turn from the “sin problem”, our preachers from every race and denomination will begin to again preach the very center of all that Jesus taught and lived, namely forgiveness. May the message of the cross and forgiveness be proclaimed loudly and clearly again! May we be as the Church rise to Christ’s instruction that He referred to, in Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God”, proving that we are truly “born again” and filled with His reconciling love that forgives and does not “pre judge” each other anymore!
Rev Nolan J Harkness is the President and CEO of Nolan Harkness Evangelistic Ministries Inc. since 1985. He spent most of his adult life working in youth ministry. He also felt the calling of Evangelist/Revivalist and traveled as the door was open holding evangelistic meetings in churches throughout the Northeast. His website is www.verticalsound.org.